LADY VENGEANCE Add To My Top 10
ill Bill Korean Style
Release Date: April 28, 2006
Genre: Crime Thriller
Runtime: 112 minutes
Distributor: Tartan USA
Director: Chan-wook Park
Executive Producer: Miky Lee
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TITLE: LADY VENGEANCE
Quality: * * * * Acceptability: -4
SUBTITLES: -- In Korean with English subtitles --
RELEASE: April 28, 2006
TIME: 112 minutes
STARRING: Yeoung-ae Lee, Min-sik Choi and Yea-young Kwong
DIRECTOR: Chan-wook Park
PRODUCERS: Young-wuk Cho, Chun-yeong Lee, Tae-hun Lee
EXECUTIVE PRODUCER: Miky Lee
WRITERS: Seo-Gyeong Jeong and Chan-wook Park
DISTRIBUTOR: Tartan USA
CONTENT: (PaPaPa, AbAb, C, B, LL, VVV, SS, NN, A, D, M) Very strong mixed pagan worldview with some anti-Christian content regarding a Christian preacher who offers salvation to the heroine but sells her out for money when she rebuffs his evangelism, as well as mother looks after her daughter with affection and tenderness; about 15 obscenities and profanities; very strong sometimes gory violence includes implied murder of children and adult, kidnapping of children, beatings, shootings, poisonings, and stabbings using knives, scissors and axes; implied heterosexual and lesbian adult sex, and consensual sex of adult with teenager; brief sexual nudity; alcohol use; smoking tobacco; and, revenge.
GENRE: Crime Thriller
INTENDED AUDIENCE: Adults
REVIEWER: Joseph L. Kalcso
The title character in LADY VENGEANCE, a crime thriller from South Korea, is the sweet Geum-ja Lee (Yeoung-ae Lee). Geum-ja can be as cold and ruthless as she is beautiful. She takes the fall for the murder of a 6-year-old child and winds up in jail for 13 years to pay for this heinous crime. During those long years, not only her youth but also whatever little vestige of innocence she might have had is forever lost, and for that her self-pity threatens at times to overwhelm her. On the flipside, she redeems the time well by methodically planning sweet revenge against Mr. Baek (Min-sik Choi), the real killer. She even manages to get some practice by unfeelingly doing away with an evil and oppressive cellmate (Shi-hu Kim) who sexually, and otherwise, abuses anyone who comes within her reach.
Geum-ja eventually earns the dual reputation of being both an Angel, and a Witch, and is even aided by her admiring cellmates with some of the tools and resources she will need to accomplish her determined post prison goals. On the day of her release, Geum-ja finds herself torn between a nagging desire to make a clean start, and her mission of revenge. As she walks out into the bright sunshine, and freedom, a fawning preacher (Beyong-ok Kim), accompanied by a small band of musicians wearing comical Santa Claus outfits, greets her. Their leader, a preacher brimming with joy, presents her with a gleaming white tofu cake symbolizing spiritual cleansing, and a new beginning. Geum-ja promptly slaps the cake to the ground, clearly signaling to everyone the path that she has chosen.
Later, she commissions a carefully crafted handgun to be built while at the same time confectioning delicate cakes at a local bakery. She tenaciously hunts the object of her pent-up hatred, while at the same time looking after her 13 year old daughter Jenny (Yea-young Kwong) with colossal tenderness and affection. Perhaps one of the most interesting aspects of this movie is observing precisely this duality of mind and purpose, which the anti-heroine carries with her all the way down to the final scene.
LADY VENGEANCE is the third rendition of director Chan-wook Park’s movie trilogy exploring the subject of vengeance. The movie succeeds on two significant levels. Director Park undoubtedly has an eye for striking static photography, which at times looks more like a series of stills to be presented in an art gallery than in a motion picture: beautiful to regard, occasionally intriguing, and often compelling. On another successful plane, this movie hits its audience straight between the eyes with the subject of revenge, which escapist, superficial exercises like the KILL BILL movies never did. Neither is there any getting away here from the questions it seriously poses. Could revenge ever be a viable option, is it acceptable, or even required? Who could, or should, carry it out, and when, if ever?
Setting the answers aside, LADY VENGEANCE regrettably fails in many more ways than it succeeds. Its over-the-top excessive use of gory violence, sordid and often depraved sex, and general all-around human debauchery goes a long way to negate all the positive elements initially brought to the plot. All the performances, including that of the fragile, and yet hard as steel, Geum-ja, the amoral, despicable killer Mr Baek, and Jenny as the loveable daughter brought up by Australian step-parents, are thoroughly professional, but not much more than that. Most objectionable of all, however, is the way religious elements are depicted by the director. The Preacher is the only character with any sort of religious faith in the movie, and he is portrayed as a feeble minded hypocrite, who, when spurned by Geum-ja, in a veiled allegory to the apostle Judas, betrays the object of his love for a meager sum of money. Moreover, director Park either completely ignores, or is ignorant, of God’s admonition to man on the subject of vengeance which clearly states in Romans 12:19 of the Holy Bible, "Avenge not yourselves, beloved, but give place unto the wrath of God, for it is written, vengeance belongs to me, I will recompense, says the Lord."
The performances in LADY VENGEANCE are standard, and some of the photography resembles beautiful photography that looks more like stills from an art show than scenes from a movie. Regrettably, this South Korean import negates the attempt to seriously deal with the concept of vengeance by succumbing to the lure of sensationalism through gory violence, graphic sex, aberrant behavior, and sadism. The movie also widely misses the mark by ridiculing the only character representing the Christian faith, while ignoring or simply being ignorant of, the Judeo-Christian worldview, which states that vengeance belongs to the Lord alone.